Team Leadership in Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon: The full version!

Earlier this year, readers of this blog may recall, I had an article appear on The Conversation, tying in with Management Lessons from Game of Thrones, entitled “Six models of successful team leadership from Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon.” I mentioned at the time that I’d originally submitted a longer piece. Which, as today is my birthday (legit, it is!) I’m now making available here. Enjoy additional unhinged-Targaryen and charismatic-preacher content!

Eight Paths to Successful Team Leadership from Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon

As anybody who’s ever been in a leadership position knows, no single style fits every situation! In my book Management Lessons from Game of Thrones: Organization Theory and Strategy in Westeros, I show how managers can learn from how various characters in Game of Thrones tackled and overcame their leadership and team management problems using strategies that fit their personalities and situations. If you’re struggling with a team management project, here are eight different approaches from Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon that might help you find your perfect leadership style.

That time a thing I wrote was on the front page of a news website.
  1. 1. Daenerys Targaryen

Daenerys is a a charismatic leader, someone who inspires others simply by the force of her personality and vision. However, she clearly finds the day-to-day business of management boring and is always looking for new challenges.

In a team management situation, you’d want Daenerys in charge whenever quick and drastic decisions need to be made, and when you need the team to be united and following a specific plan or vision. Bringing a new and controversial product to market on time, for instance, or carrying out a project with a certain element of risk.

2. Jon Snow

Jon Snow is a transformational leader: he excels in bringing out the best in the people around him and seeing organizations through time of change. Transformational leaders don’t generally seek out leadership, but are often just what a struggling organization needs to get back on track.

You’d want Jon in charge when a team is having trouble finding form or purpose, or meeting its established goals. Jon would be the sort of leader who can analyse what the team’s strengths and weaknesses are, can organise it to play to its strengths, and focus it away from the problem areas.

3. Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion is a transactional leader, someone who gains the trust of their supporters by making deals and compromises. While he may not be glamourous and exciting, people trust him always to get the job done.

Tyrion would excel in a situation of day-to-day team management, where there is either a project of indefinite duration, or where the projects renew cyclically. You could see Tyrion heading up an audit team or a tax consultancy: something that needs to be done consistently, reliably and well on a regular basis, with plenty of challenges but no surprises.

4. The High Sparrow

The High Sparrow is a contingent leader, someone who moves into a leadership role from an unexpected quarter at a critical time for the organisation. His idealism and dedication inspires loyalty but he can also find himself at the heart of conflict.

The High Sparrow wouldn’t be the first person you’d put in charge of a team, but he’d be the one who steps in when more conventional leadership fails. He usually comes in from the ranks of the team members and is able to use his knowledge of the team’s internal dynamics to refocus the team and give it a direction. However, you might not want him in charge for the long term, in case his personal agenda starts to replace the organisation’s.  

5. Sansa Stark

Because of her gender and her personality, Sansa’s talents are not immediately apparent. She struggles to be accepted in a leadership role, but, when she’s in charge, she’s focused and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. She takes a long view of success and it generally pays off.

Sansa is the person you want in charge of a team working on a project with long-term objectives. She’s also very good at bringing together people with very different interests and getting them to work together over a period of time, and also at taking difficult decisions and sticking by them. The biggest problem you might have with Sansa is that, if you underestimate her, you might lose her to the competition!

7. Daemon Targaryen

Like his distant relative Daenerys, Daemon is a charismatic leader. He clearly inspires the loyalty of the Gold Cloaks and attracts supporters among his extended family. Daemon is also, however, a toxic leader, thinking little of murder and brutality as ways of achieving his ends.

Strangely, sometimes this kind of leadership can have good results! Daemon clearly achieves a number of victories simply through not caring about what other people think, or through treating other people as assets or obstacles without caring about them as human beings. However, this means that Damon is also not somebody you want in charge for a long period of time. He may be able to deliver necessary shock treatment, but he shouldn’t be allowed to keep on delivering it.

8. Corlys Velaryon

Corlys Velaryon is a pragmatic leader. He does what it takes to get the job done, even when this means making questionable alliances or difficult compromises. At times when others are concerned about short-term pride and prestige, he is concerned about the longer term consequences.

Corlys clearly excels in any situation where there is the opportunity to develop a strategy and see it through, and one where difficult, even painful, decisions might need to be made. He can weigh up costs and benefits rationally, and can choose the most appropriate path, even if it involves difficult alliances or accepting the second best option, with a view to pursuing strategic success over a more extended period. 

8. Rhaenyra Targaryen

Rhaenyra provides a good example of what we call “servant leadership”: a leader who puts the needs of the team first and encourages both her followers and her organisation to grow and develops. She accepts that everything she does has to be what’s best for the throne and for her House, and tries to find ways of doing so that make herself and the people around her happy.

Rhaenyra is the sort of person you’d want in charge of any team that needs to develop to meet new challenges, and to stay together while doing so. It’s deeply ironic that she faces so many people opposing her elevation to Queen of Westeros, as she might actually be the most suitable person to lead the country on to greater successes.

Management Lessons from Game of Thrones: Organization Theory and Strategy in Westeros is a management textbook with a difference. I examine how characters, organisations and situations in a fictional television series about a fantasy world have, perhaps surprising, parallels to people, organisations and situations in our own world, and how we can learn valuable lessons for our daily working lives from these stories. As well as leadership, the book discusses human resource management, organisation theory, strategy, mergers and acquisitions—and how to manage all of these without resorting to dragonfire! 

Management Lessons from Game of Thrones contributes to The Conversation

I’ve got an article on The Conversation, promoting Management Lessons from Game of Thrones and expanding it with a little House of the Dragon content! Please read and share. 

The original article was about one-third again as long– and it may well be appearing on this blog in future months. Stay tuned!

https://theconversation.com/six-models-of-successful-team-leadership-from-game-of-thrones-and-house-of-the-dragon-192906

The Starlost bonus “episode”: Ben Bova’s The Starcrossed

In the interests of completism, and possibly masochism, I decided it might be worth reading and reviewing Ben Bova’s novel The Starcrossed. This book always comes up when The Starlost is discussed because, as the title suggests, it’s based, albeit loosely, on Bova’s time as technical advisor on the series.

The novel is set at some unstated time in the relatively near future: there are rejuvenation techniques, 3D holographic televisions, and legal marijuana, although pollution and climate change are getting worse (in a near-the-knuckle satire, the city of Los Angeles has taken to dyeing the smog pretty colours and perfuming it to make it more attractive). A television company, hearing of a revolutionary new 3D production technique, decides to make use of it with a blockbuster space opera written by Ron Gabriel, a popular SF writer, which is a sort of mashup between the concept of The Starlost, and Romeo and Juliet (two lovers from feuding clans of space-faring merchants run away together, fleeing from planet to planet with their families in pursuit).

Hijinks inevitably ensue as the production is moved to Canada to save costs: the Canadian production team prove to be hopeless incompetents, a Neanderthal hockey star is cast as the male lead to improve local ratings, the scripts are sourced from a high-school writing competition (something which I’ve heard asserted about the actual Starlost, but I wonder if it isn’t something that Bova made up which bled out into popular perception). Eventually it becomes apparent that the production company is just using the production as a cover for embezzling investor funds, and it all goes, well, south. Bova does, however, give his series the happy ending that The Starlost never had, perhaps a bit of wish-fulfilment, and incidentally invents the deepfake in the process.

Reasonably accurate cover art– most editions are just generic spacescapes.

As a satire of 1970s TV production it’s, well, okay I guess. The portrayal of the Canadian TV industry as small-scale and incompetent seems a bit ironic in hindsight, but then, at the time of The Starlost, it was. The parade of evil Hollywood executives, profiteers, drug-addled directors, prurient censors and ageing stars is entertaining, though not terribly original, and the SF elements are fairly slight but used to good satirical effect.

It doesn’t really provide much insight into The Starlost, however, mostly reading like the author’s rant against television production more generally. Some of it’s plainly not true: For instance a scene where model designers are shown as having no understanding of design or physics, which is certainly not the case for The Starlost‘s actual model team. Although Robin Ward might not be the greatest actor in the world, he’s certainly not a belligerent thug along the lines of “Francois Dulac”, the hockey player in The Starlost, Gay Rowan isn’t an ageing star rejuvenating herself to stay current, and the series never recruited any brilliant but drug-addicted Hollywood directors. Ron Gabriel, the Harlan Ellison-alike character, rings true as an antagonistic figure, but Ellison walked out on the series much faster than his fictional equivalent did. Beyond that the Canadians of the early 1970s were small-scale operators with a lot of anti-American chauvinism, I can’t really see much of the actual production experience in it at all.

Generally, then, I’d say it’s an interesting coda, but not one which really explains much about what actually happened to turn The Starlost from a good idea into the mess it became.

Management Lessons from Game of Thrones: The Quiz!

The wonderful people at my university have made up a “Which Game of Thrones Leader Are You?” quiz to promote my book Management Lessons in Game of Thrones! Go on, take it– we don’t send any data back to evil corporations! 

In case you’re wondering, I got Tyrion.

https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/about-us/news/how-game-of-thrones-leaders-can-teach-us-a-thing-or-two-about-management/

Not-A-Guest Blogging: I Read This Stuff So You Don’t Have To

My article on Badger Books is now up at Galactic Journey, where I’m now a regular staffer rather than a guest blogger! Badger Books, and their main writer Lionel Fanthorpe, are a great example of the sort of things I love to watch/read so you don’t have to: completely awful, and yet with a certain idiosyncratic joy that shines through even the worst novels. Check them out.

Management Lessons From Game of Thrones: The Campaign

My book Management Lessons from Game of Thrones is out now (click the title for purchase links). And it needs your help!

Specifically, I need your help to have the wackiest impact case study in the history of the business school.

For those of you who aren’t in British academia: an impact case study is a portfolio of items which demonstrate that some part of a professor’s research has had a significant impact on some part of wider society.

And I think Management Lessons from Game of Thrones has serious potential to have an impact on some part of wider society, so:

Buy it! Read it! Use it in your Introduction to Management courses! But more importantly, tell me, and tell the world! Review it! Let me know which courses and where!

If you’re a reviewer for a blog or a podcast or a magazine, DM me about review copies! I’m @drfionamoore on all major social media.

Whatever you do—let’s make sure Management Lessons from Game of Thrones gets seen!

Not sure you want to buy it? Here’s a taste.

Purchase links again.